tv Press Here NBC March 27, 2016 9:00am-9:31am PDT
is sponsored in part by barracuda networks, cloud-connected security and storage solutions that simplify it. city national bank, providing loans and lines of credit to help northern california businesses grow. scott mcgrew: this week, we find out the secrets of the food truck. on a good day, a clever cook can clear thousands of dollars. food truck godfather matt cohen, my guest this morning. plus, vacation time approved. a silicon valley ceo says what's best for employees is best for the company, including unlimited time off. and young entrepreneurs prepare to turn a profit. our reporters, michal lev-ram of fortune magazine, and quentin hardy of the new york times, this week on "press:here." [music]
scott: good morning, everyone, i'm scott mcgrew. it is time, it is time for all those clever san francisco high-tech startups to make some money. money is the point of starting a business. it's not to change the world, it's to make money. for several years now, tech startups worried about growth, expanding into new markets, becoming a household name. here, we see a delivery worker for san francisco's taskrabbit as he goes on his assigned errands. taskrabbit has received more than $50 million in venture capital funding. and its ceo leah busque's job: to start delivering profits. fortunately, leah's one of the smartest people i know. joined by quentin hardy of the new york times and michal lev-ram. michal lev-ram: two other very smart people. scott: absolutely, the three of you. now, tell me about this, and i'm speaking generally about startups. there is that point at which it's all growth, growth, growth, growth. "i gave you venture capital money. don't talk to me about profits, i want growth." at some point, it pivots.
do they call you on the phone and say, "all right now, now change, now it's profits"? leah busque: you know, to some extent, it's all market-driven and it's all timing-based. so, when i founded taskrabbit back in 2008, this was another sort of bottom of the market time. it was a tough economic time, it was tough to raise money. sort of our dna and our origin story started there, and so we've always been thinking about sustainability, and profitability, and unit economics the entire way. but i'd say in the last couple of years, we've seen startups form that are just kind of burning through cash, you know, growing at all costs, and i think this is the year that we're all going to have to start to prove profitability. quentin hardy: okay, a lot of these guys did come up in an era of free money, and they all competed for engineers, and they showboated to get the engineers, so you had the open bars, and you had the big parties, all that stuff happened. aren't you also being a little bit unfair, though? because you basically bake a little bit of revenue and profit into each task or in each task. they have to go out and capture market share,
and market themselves really readily before they can start. typically at their advertising businesses, consumer businesses, they have to spend all that money in order to retain some, so you're kind of having it both ways here. leah: well, i can only speak about our space. and what i've seen happen in our space, which is this on-demand services sharing economy space, is there have been a lot of verticalized players that have come up in the last couple of years, have raised, you know, just as much as we have or more. quentin: are you saying uber is--? scott: no, the one that comes to mind in my mind is homejoy, which is a--was a maid service, a housekeeping service. and i used it, it was great because for $19, they clean your house. quentin: it's a great example because now it's a grease spot. scott: well, right now it is a grease spot because, you know, i was giving them $19 and they were spending, i don't know, $25 on making it happen. and you can't make up on volume. michal: you take a 23% cut? leah: that's correct, yeah, of every transaction that goes through the site. quentin: so, that's baked in right away. leah: it is, and the other thing that we do is we allow all of our taskers to set their own pricing.
so, we're never the ones saying, "for $19 an hour, you can get your house cleaned," because that doesn't--that model doesn't work. quentin: right, they have to want to make a profit, and then that gets passed along into your model somehow. leah: that's right, that's right. scott: are you profitable now? leah: we are not profitable now. we're on track this year, this year. scott: how does one get on track? i suspected you would say you weren't, so how does one get on track? i mean, obviously you can lay somebody off, or you could say no more donuts in the break room. michal: but you changed your model, basically, right? leah: yes, we've done a lot of things over the years. so, we just recently launched a new mobile app, which is focused on real-time services. so, things like handyman services, house cleaning, moving help, personal assistance. you can open the app and get someone to your door within an hour. that's a very new shift in product change, very different from when we first launched the site back in 2008, and it was an auction-based platform. so yeah, so over the course of 8 years, you know, we've evolved the product, we've evolved the model as the consumer
expectation has also changed. michal: there was some backlash over that, though, right? leah: well, back in 2014, yeah, not with this latest change, but when we moved from the auction-based model into a booking platform, there was--that was certainly a massive change, particularly for our tasker community that was sort of used to this auction-based system. but it really, it wasn't scaling as well for the customers, and taskers weren't making as much money on it either. quentin: so are you one of these people who thinks a recession would actually be sort of healthy at this point because it would prove out what's true and what's been nonsense? leah: i'm not opposed to that thinking, yeah. quentin: the refining fire of hard times. leah: i mean, when i founded the company in 2008, raised money in 2009, that was a tough time. i've seen the whole cycle, right? and so, you know, i'm not saying i want to see us go back to where we were then, or where we were back in 2001, but i do think there's probably some level-setting that's going to happen. michal: but it's also, i mean, part of the reason why you had
growth early on is because it was hard economic times, because you had more taskers wanting to work, right? leah: yeah, it was really interesting because i never really considered that. i mean, i quit my cushy job at ibm. and then 4 months later, we're entering this recession, and i was thinking, "oh my god, what did i just do," right? but, it turned out to be a really great time to start a business like this because there were so many people that were looking for new ways of working, and they were looking for more flexible work, they were looking a way to supplement their incomes. scott: at taskrabbit headquarters, you have what, about 60 people? leah: we do, yes. scott: okay, i was surprised, and i'll go back to that homejoy thing, i forget what their headcount was, but when they laid off and they became the grease spot, i was shocked at how many people worked in their office. for something that--and i realize i'm not a developer, but okay, we need a ceo, we need someone to write the ios app, we need somebody to maintain the website, and then we need an hr person, that's four. i mean, how do you-- quentin: it really isn't that simple, come on.
scott: i know it's not. how do you get to 60? quentin: marketing is expensive. coding is complicated. scott: so, how do you get to 60? leah: the largest part of our operation is actually marketplace and community operations. it's not product and development. it's more customer service, it's more community recruiting, community operations. quentin: you're building up demand and gaining supply. scott: you expand into nashville, you need a person in nashville. leah: we actually don't have anyone located across the country, only san francisco. but, we do need someone in headquarters focused on nashville, and probably that region, is how we think about it. quentin: speaking of saving money, you're located in san francisco? i'm starting to see a lot of companies now that'll have, like, a core in san francisco, and then an operation in portland, or denver, or even seattle, which is still cheaper, you know, as a way of laying off costs. do you think about that kind of model? leah: yeah, we do, we did in the last year open a call center in portland that's been very cost-effective for us. and then we just run the team really lean in general.
scott: but to quentin's point, i mean, if i said, "no, no, no, we got to get profitability right now," we could all--you know, we could move to nashville. quentin: where i'm going is, how ambitious are you about this? i mean, are you looking at yourself and thinking, "i can cut, i could be tougher"? leah: listen, you know, the core of innovation is still here in silicon valley. and, you know, i founded the company actually in boston, and came out here to be part of this community. and so, definitely dedicated to being here, and there's lots of great innovation that happens here that we love being a part of. scott: leah busque runs an absolutely wonderful service on her way to profitability. we appreciate you, and it's not the first time you've been here. we appreciate you coming back. leah: thank you so much. scott: up next, from burger she wrote to the grillennium falcon, inside the very profitable world of food trucks when "press:here" continues. [music]
scott: gourmet food trucks, popular all over the united states, but they got their start right here in california. welcome back to "press:here." it's not clear who was the very first person to look at one of those blue-collar lunch trucks and think, "i should serve my artisanal vegan garden wraps out of that," but chances are matt cohen knows who it was. matt is the owner of one of the very first food trucks in san francisco. he's now the king of food trucks. he's the person behind san francisco's wildly popular off the grid food truck parties.
they're like giant hipster picnics. he's so powerful in the world of food trucks, san francisco magazine called him a don, the godfather of mobile restaurants. matt now wants to teach the art of food trucks to the next generation, creating a 2-year cooking school incubator called instrucktional, where you learn everything from sanitary food handling to what color to paint your wagon. thanks for being with us this morning. i got to start with 2 years, 2 years to learn how to be a guy in a food truck? matt cohen: yeah, so it really--so, it comes from off the grid really is about creating great community spaces. and every year, we get applicants who want to work with us in our event spaces, who are really driven, really passionate, but just don't have the culinary skills to even get started. and so, when we started this relationship with our other company, the whole cart, about building a corporate food service program based on a mobile platform for google, basically they wanted to capture that passion, and so it allowed us to build a platform for instrucktional, which is a 2-year program--
quentin: i think his question-- scott: yeah, the 2 years. quentin: i think his question is, why does that take 2 years to start? matt: it really starts with the first 3 months of building a culinary relationship. scott: okay, they're starting from zero. matt: they learn how to chop, mise en place, here's how to cut, here's how to chop, here's how a recipe works. then it moves to working on a truck and learning the basics of a truck. a lot of times, when people are on food trucks, the first time that they're on a food truck is when they buy it. and so, really this is an opportunity for them to learn how to be a line-level cook on a food truck, a manager on a food truck, and then there's 3 to 6 months of branding and concepting for their individual concept. michal: so you've got, like, a culinary school, business school, and driver's ed, like, combined basically. matt: and then the cool part of it is we put them out on google's campus, and they operate for a year. and they get direct feedback on their product. they have a brand that they take away with them at the end of the process. and they've really learned how to execute a brand and a concept from-- scott: to the people who don't realize that there are google--there are food trucks that come to google.
they have the world's best cafeterias. but then there are these food trucks that park outside of google, and you coordinate that. matt: so, actually, 2 years ago we started working at google in programming third party businesses. a year ago, we started working with google to create their own food truck program that we run as our company. scott: they contract out to you? matt: they contract out to us the same way they contract to other business. quentin: i think this phenomenon is so interesting because it's sort of like, you know, open-plan offices or cubicles or something. like there's the street, and then there's a restaurant on the streets, it's the food truck, and then it goes away after lunchtime. it kind of pops up and pops down again, which is really fantastic, and you get all this variety. what do you say to the complaints of restaurant owners that, "we're paying taxes, we have overhead, we have a bigger staff, we're doing more employment. these guys are complete carpetbaggers who steal our business"? matt: i think i would start by saying food trucks pay all of
those same things that restaurants do. and their overhead costs are actually-- quentin: they pay real estate taxes? matt: well, they can pay real estate-- quentin: a parking fee maybe. matt: they pay a parking fee, but they also have a commissary that they operate out of, where they have to prepare their food. they have a place to park their truck. the permits are quite expensive. and where a restaurant has to go around to only have one health department that they work with, food trucks typically work with five to six different health departments, different municipalities. quentin: but they must be much more profitable than regular restaurants because they have lower overhead, it's finite menu. matt: i think if it's an owner-operated food truck, the profit margin can be 10 to 15%, which typically in the restaurant industry is about 8%. so, yeah, it can be more profitable, but that's if you're an owner-operated food truck. if you're not an owner-operated food truck-- michal: who are most of these people that come to you? i mean, what's their background? they don't have any culinary background? matt: so, it started with a lot of people who, following 2008, the financial crisis, people who were really seeking to want to do a job change and get into the culinary field.
what's happened over the course of the last 7 years is it's a lot of restaurants now that are entering the food truck space because they have all the infrastructure, the expensive infrastructure that i was talking about, in terms of a commissary that they can leverage. quentin: the following matters so much. scott: and i want to speak to that because i want to ask, i notice that food trucks, they tend to have a clever name. they tend to serve something beyond just hamburgers. michal: yak burgers. scott: yak burgers, nepalese yak burgers or something. is that the key to success? i got to serve something weird and have a silly name? i mean, obviously you've got to have good food. quentin: if you've ever seen the line on an in-n-out truck, you would know burgers work great. scott: yes, but it does seem that it's almost like the cost of entry is serving something weird. matt: i think everybody loves a burger. but i think, fundamentally, the best food trucks are simple ideas. and so, what the catchy name is really communicating is the simple thing you should get off that truck. and that's when the catchy name really works best. quentin: so, what food have you brought for us today? matt: i have it on the parking lot, actually, so after this.
michal: what colors work best on food trucks have you guys found? matt: so, it's really across the board. some of the most popular trucks are black, some of the other most popular trucks are, like, sort of very brightly sort of designed, graphically-driven concepts. so, it really is just about connecting with the brand and the experience. quentin: and what ideas have people brought you where you just thought... matt: oh my gosh, so, like, lots of mashups from, like, ethiopian and malaysian to barbecue. and so, like, people are just really creative about it. quentin: i bet sometimes they work. you think this is a stinker, and then it blows it away. scott: has there been one where you're just like, "no, no, no, no"? matt: i think there--like, everything comes in waves, right? and so, there's a lot of filipino-mexican mashups, that there's a truck called señor sisig that's one of the most popular trucks in the country. quentin: i'm totally up for that, that sounds great. matt: yeah, it's fantastic. and so, but there's other southern barbecue mashed up with asian concepts. people are very creative. scott: what's the one thing that people don't realize going in?
i mean, obviously small kitchen. what's the biggest challenge, where i say, "you know, i'm going to get a food truck," and you say, "now, have you thought about?" matt: yeah, i think the longest--or the biggest thing that people don't think about is the amount of time it takes to actually execute one service in a food truck. so, if you serve from 11:00 to 2:00, you really start prep at 6 or 7 o'clock in the morning. you have to prepare, you drive to where you're going, and then you leave and you come back. and at peak season, most of these trucks are working lunch and dinner. and so, it can really be a 6 o'clock or 7 o'clock in the morning job, until 12 or 1 o'clock in the morning. quentin: is this the west coast, sort of east coast thing, or is it catching on in the heartland too? it's everywhere? matt: it's really growing everywhere. it's more seasonal in places obviously where it's colder in e winter, but really the platform is an opportunity for people to get a start in their business. it's really undeniable, and it's really grown in the last few years. scott: i've called you the don of food trucks over at san francisco magazine, they did, because you are involved in their businesses in many ways, coordinating them. so, i'm going to put you on the spot and say if i had to try one food truck.
matt: oh man. scott: i know, right? quentin: which of your children do you like best? matt: i'm going to politely decline. scott: top five. matt: i think the people who are really doing undeniable, and there's energy, there's energy behind it, is señor sisig, koja kitchen, the chairman. those are really the people who have sort of set the standard of the way that san francisco food trucks operate. and i think they bring, like, a really positive sort of a really positive benefit to the city. scott: mat cohen is in charge of many things, including instrucktional, to make sure people understand there's a truck in the middle of that, a school for food trucks. matt: a school for food trucks. scott: thanks for being with us this morning. matt: thank you very much. scott: up next, what do employees want most? it's not aually money. we'll tell you, back in a moment. [music]
scott: welcome back to "press:here." earlier this month, we celebrated international women's day. it's just one day, it's not a month. the economist magazine took that opportunity to look at working conditions for women, and determined the best place for a woman to work is iceland. the united states placed about 18th. now, i do think if you look at silicon valley specifically, we would do better, maybe as good as denmark. that's because many silicon valley companies have rather european-like benefits. ann crady weiss is the ceo of hatch baby,
and looking over her employee manual, it actually looks like a pretty good place to work. thank you for being with us this morning. you wrote an op-ed in the san francisco chronicle that says, "remember, your employees have lives." it was obviously directed towards other ceos, but what did you want them to understand? ann: sure, what i was trying to say, and what i believe, is that it's very important as a startup ceo, or frankly as any ceo, to recognize that your employees are people. they are people first. and if you give them responsibility and respect, they will be more successful in their jobs. what we do at hatch baby is we give people unlimited vacation, unlimited sick time, and we basically know that we--because we hire a players, they're going to act like a players. scott: they're not going to go on vacation. ann: they're not going to go on vacation. they do go on vacation. we encourage them to go-- michal: isn't that part of the problem, though, is that when you have unlimited vacation days, a lot of times employees actually don't--there's still this peer pressure? ann: the reality is--the reality is yes,
we do hire a players, and we believe that's really important. we want to hire people who are really committed to doing a great job, but we also do very much encourage, and by example, we as founders make sure that we take care of ourselves as human beings. quentin: what does your company do? ann: my company, we create smart nursery products for new parents. our first product is called the smart changing pad, and what it is is it's a way to know that your baby is developing normally and that you're breastfeeding enough, and your baby is healthy. scott: a quantified baby. ann: a quantified--it's a quantified self applied to the baby. quentin: okay, the quantified baby. it's a product for home and family, which is nice. but, the whole quantified, always-on thing is kind of part of the problem, isn't it? because you hire a players, they're competitive people, they check their phones at the dinner table. scott: or they can check their baby on their phone. quentin: they are geared towards being at work. and that pushes the whole culture into being geared to work. we've had an environment of heavy, heavy competition for decades now,
and tech just makes it worse. so, don't you sort of see two messages here? ann: i don't, i mean, i think that we need to serve people. so, there are some people who are hard chargers, and very driven, and interested in a 24/7 kind of job, and there are people who aren't. and i think it's up to us as leaders to craft companies around all people. quentin: how often are you up at night at home sending email? ann: i am up at night often sending email, but that's because-- quentin: that would be sort of every night, right? scott: if i get an email from you at 11:30 at night, i'm going to want to send something back, say, "oh no, ann, i'm totally thinking about hatch baby right now." ann: i think absolutely there is--there are cultural things that each company creates. and what we're trying to do at hatch baby is we're trying to create a culture where people really are responsible for themselves, and setting their own boundaries. and we are active communicators about exactly what i wrote about, which is making sure that you have a life, that you are taking care of yourself. a lot of people who work for us have families, and we want those people, that's important for our brand,
it's important for our mission, we want to help new parents. quentin: i want to be clear; i'm not sort of singling you out or accusing you of hypocrisy. i'm just saying this highly-connected world creates feedback loops where work can fill everything. ann: you're absolutely right. michal: and it's really set from the top, right? so, it's great that facebook has paternity leave, but is mark zuckerberg going to take leave, right? there was a lot of scrutiny on that, and he did. so do you--do you take vacation? i mean, do you--you said you're up at night doing emails. quentin: when you're on vacation, are you checking your emails? ann: you know, i just recently went to mexico, and i was off the entire week. it was absolutely fantastic. and i do think it's important from the top to basically demonstrate that i have a life. i think that's really important. and i feel very lucky the venture capitalists who back me and our employees all believe the same thing. we really hired a players who really do buy into this, like, i need to be a whole person. and that's really important to us. scott: whether they like it or not, ceos really are going to set the examples. zuckerberg stepped away, he said. marissa meyer, in her first couple of weeks as yahoo!
ceo, shut down remote work. i firmly believe she was telling the truth when she said, "you know, it doesn't just work for us." it's not about--you know, and people gave her grief about "oh, she doesn't like working women." quentin: well, she did have a custom-built nursery right next door to her own office. scott: that's not remote work, that's going to work. do you allow remote work? i'm convinced that it doesn't work as well as people claim it does because it's in their best interest to claim it works. ann: so for me, i believe in remote work. we absolutely have--we have--we're a small team. and of our team, half of those folks work remotely. we have once a week, we have an in-person meeting, but it works fantastically well for us. again, it's getting back to hiring people who you trust, and people who are a players, who really are going to get done what they need to get done. so for me--and there are lots of examples. automatic wordpress is an example of a big--it's a unicorn company, and it's all remote, and it works fantastically well. so again, it's getting back to that saying, that culture early on. for me, it absolutely can work, and it just is a question of whether your culture is built around to make it work. michal: there might have been other issues
at yahoo! that didn't work. quentin: i'm sure there were plenty. michal: what's the male-female ratio in your company? ann: in my company, it's actually quite different than most. we have--we're half and half, and so that's a really fantastic thing. and again, from a culture early on, it's something that we really try to do. we also have a lot of folks who are contractors who are moms, and who are doing work on the side of being a mom, and that's something that's really important to me as well. quentin: did you get much feedback on the piece? what did other ceos say to you? ann: i got great feedback on the piece. i think there's a lot of agreement. i think there's uniform agreement that it is important to make sure that, you know, you recognize that your employees have lives. but that said, as we've talked about here, you know, there is a culture that's established, and it's established from the top. i do think one of the groups of people that i've had the most feedback on in this piece and a couple of others i've written are working moms, and especially working moms of very young kids. and that's something that's near and to my heart, having been through that myself three times. quentin: the valley totally values disruption. but there's an undercurrent of be paranoid inside that too.
you know, someone's going to disrupt you. scott: i'm going to break in there because i only have a couple of seconds left. i do want to point out, as we went to break earlier, i said what's more important than pay? and it's flexibility, which is much of what you have been saying. ann: flexibility, absolutely. scott: ann crady weiss, thank you for being with us, and may more ceos listen to your message. ann: thank you. scott: back in just a minute. [music]
damian trujillo: hello and welcome to "comunidad del valle." i'm damian trujillo, and today, some powerful latina entrepreneurs, plus the power of education on your "comunidad del valle." male announcer: nbc bay area presents "comunidad del valle" with damian trujillo. damian: we begin today with an opportunity to earn your high school diploma if you were not able to do so. we're here on "comunidad del valle" with john gundry, the superintendent of the santa clara county office of education, and gerry lopez is the principal of opportunity youth academy here in the south bay. welcome to the show. gerry lopez: good to be here. john gundry: thank you. damian: all right, tell us first of all about the opportunity youth academy and who it helps. gerry: the opportunity youth academy, oya, is a re-engagement program that services students from 16 to 24 who, for whatever reason, didn't complete their diploma. and so we have four locations throughout santa clara, and we are reaching out to them.